You can feel it in the air. There is so much to celebrate this holiday season. Last year, the pandemic kept many families from traveling to see one another and gathering together for big holiday meals. Holiday parties didn’t really happen, and it wasn’t much fun decorating when no one was coming over to celebrate.
But this year, we’re all in. Americans will be hitting the road to spend the holidays with family and many of us are gearing up for decorating and gift-giving.
A recent survey by Nerdwallet found that 29% of people who didn’t travel during the 2020 holiday season plan to spend money on flights and/or hotel stays this year. But paying for all that isn’t easy. A whopping 89% of those people told Nerdwallet they’re taking action to save money on holiday-related spending.
The worrisome part? More than 70% of potential holiday travelers surveyed said they’re likely to put some or all of their holiday expenses on a credit card, something Nerdwallet recommends they avoid.
We know that holiday decorating, gift-giving, travel and entertaining can get expensive. So how can you make it amazing this year without spending more than is smart for your budget — and without adding any high-interest credit card debt?
Here are some practical moves that can make a difference:
The best way to stay inside of your holiday budget is to make a list of what’s really important and map out a budget that works for you. Gift-giving is a great place to start: Make a list of everyone you’d like to give a holiday gift to, including neighbors, friends, or school teachers who have been especially kind this year.
You can ask loved ones if you might agree on a holiday budget, so no one goes overboard and everyone feels comfortable.
And if you have lots of relatives or a group of friends in mind, go for the Secret Santa approach: Put names in a hat and have everyone choose one. Agree on a spending limit, then get creative to choose the best possible gift for the person you’ve chosen.
When it comes to holiday entertaining, plan menus in advance. That way, you can choose dishes that will serve a big group at a reasonable cost and shop at the groceries stores with the best prices — even if they’re a bit of a drive.
As you look at your gift list, consider the kinds of things you might make. If you enjoy craft projects, consider making gifts this year. There are tons of instructions available online for crafting homemade holiday ornaments or other decorative items that you can give as gifts (or use for your own decorating!).
You can also make food- and drink-related gifts. Just buy a batch of Mason jars and get creative. It’s easy to make hot chocolate kits or even homemade jams.
Another option: Measure out the dry ingredients for your favorite holiday cookie recipe and combine them in a Mason jar. Wrap the jar with a ribbon and attach a hand-written card that lists the cookie recipe. These make great gifts for school teachers or hostess gifts.
If you’re in need of holiday decorations, you can also save money by making things this year. Rather than buying a premade wreath, ask folks who are selling Christmas trees if they have any spare branch cuttings available that you could use for decorating.
Though it can seem like holiday planning and shopping starts earlier and earlier each year, it’s practical to get your shopping done early. You’ll have a chance to look for sales or search for online coupons, and you’ll have time to dream up great gift ideas that don’t cost a lot.
It’s also a good holiday budget move to plan holiday travel as far in advance as possible. If you can be flexible about travel dates, Expedia offers the option of searching for flights on a range of dates to find the lowest ticket price.
For holiday home decorating and things like serving platters for holiday meals, do some early shopping at thrift shops and consignment stores, or check out estate sales and flea markets. You can often find classic holiday items for a fraction of the retail cost.
Avoiding snowballing credit card debt is a major key to staying financially healthy. Rather than using credit cards, you can look into covering holiday expenses with a small personal loan.
A personal loan at a fixed rate will give you the money you need, while making sure you know exactly how much you’ll need to repay the loan each month — without any surprises.
Our “Friendly Franklin Folks” are available to sit down with you and explain exactly how our personal loans work. They help you decide what kind of lending might be right for you.
If you’re busy, you can begin the application online and then have a face-to-face talk with your local 1st Franklin Financial associate to discuss rates and terms, and complete your application, when you’re ready.
As our family looks ahead to the coming celebrations, we wish you and your family a joyful, peaceful and safe holiday season!
To find a 1st Franklin Financial in your neighborhood, click here.